09 August 2023

Haines: My question is to the Attorney-General. Today the South Australian Court of Appeal is considering tax office whistleblower Richard Boyle’s case. Mr Boyle faces trial and a potential prison term because he’s not protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act. Why has the government failed to intervene in Mr Boyle’s case? And when will you fix whistleblower protection laws, including by introducing a whistleblower protection commissioner?

Attorney General: I thank the member for Indi for her question. I know of her longstanding concerns about the protection of whistleblowers in our country. Her question is about both the prosecution of Mr Richard Boyle and the importance of protections for whistleblowers. The Albanese government is delivering on its commitment to strengthen protections for whistleblowers in our country—whistleblowers who report wrongdoing, whistleblowers who report corruption—and we are delivering through very-long-overdue reform to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013, which I had the honour of bringing to this parliament when I was last Attorney-General in 2013.

On 1 July 2023, priority amendments to the Public Interest Disclosure Act came into effect, delivering on the government’s commitment to implement key recommendations of the 2016 independent review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act by Mr Philip Moss AM, and some other parliamentary committee reports. It’s worth noting the complete inaction by those opposite—since the Moss report in 2016, it was simply allowed to gather dust. We’ve acted on it. These reforms represent a significant milestone towards a best-practice whistleblower protection framework. They ensured that amendments and improvements to public interest disclosure and whistleblower protection were in place when the National Anti-Corruption Commission commenced its operations on 1 July. A second stage of reforms will include public consultation on redrafting the Public Interest Disclosure Act to address underlying complexity of the scheme, and a discussion paper on the need for additional support for public sector whistleblowers, such as a whistleblower protection authority or perhaps a commissioner.

The first and second stages of public sector whistleblower reform demonstrate our government’s commitment to ensuring that we have an effective framework to promote integrity in the public sector to protect public-sector whistleblowers who bring wrongdoing to light.

The member has also mentioned the prosecution of Mr Boyle, and I will say this: integrity and the rule of law are central to Australia’s criminal justice arrangements. The Attorney-General’s power to discontinue proceedings is reserved for very unusual and exceptional circumstances and requires careful consideration before that power is exercised. Mr Boyle’s proceedings are ongoing, as the member for Indi indicated in her question. It would be inappropriate to comment further.

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